and if you opt for the cheapest connected watches from Apple?

On September 7, Apple completely overhauled its range of connected watches, and, something rare enough to be underlined, the American giant did it from the top… Farewell to the Series 3, replaced at the entry level by a Watch SE from second generation, available from 299 euros. At the same time, the Series 8, which unsurprisingly succeeds the Series 7, now occupies a slightly more ambiguous place. Sold from 499 euros, it is already a top-of-the-range watch for the general public… which finds itself at the same time downgraded by the arrival of the Watch Ultra. Admittedly, the connected watch at 999 euros is intended for athletes or the most active users, but it is also the one that is the most imbued with novelties. It also seems to have to respond most seriously to a weak point of the Watch since its origins, its relatively low autonomy as soon as it is asked a little too much.

In short, in a way, the Watch Ultra, although intended for a niche, makes the Series 8 a little outdated, taking away some of its aura of novelty. De facto, the question then arises: what if the Watch SE was ultimately good enough?

We have had the two watches in our possession for a few days, not enough yet to give you the background of our thoughts on each, but enough to see what each brings in addition, with, each time, an essential argument which pleads in favor of the Watch SE: its price. At 200 euros less than the Watch Series 8, the second SE edition often excuses its shortcomings… – Pierre Thieulin – Thomas Remilleret

Appearances are not always deceiving

The two Watches share the same ergonomics, made of touch, side button and digital crown, but have some differences. The most visible are obviously exterior. Where the Series 8 inherits directly from the design of the Series 7, with an edge-to-edge screen still a little domed, which allows the display to extend to the limits of the case, the second generation Watch SE takes up the design of the Watch SE, first of the name, introduced in 2019.

The bezels around the screen are much wider. A point that only reinforces the impression of relative smallness of the display surface, also underlined by a smaller case – even if the right dial and a light background can visually compensate for this reality. The Watch SE is only available in 40 and 44 mm, while the Series 8 displays a millimeter more – 41 and 45 mm, a difference… in size.

If the entry-level watch is smaller, it is also much lighter, which is not necessarily a bad thing when you try to forget that you are wearing a watch on your wrist. Thus, the 44 mm model of the SE is barely heavier – less than a gram – than the 41 mm of the Series 8.

For a small wrist, or a pre-adolescent, it is obvious that the greater compactness and the lower weight will be a real argument. But it can also be the case for a middle-aged adult who doesn’t like big watches. A piece of advice, it is better to try it on before choosing the size that suits you.

Only one difference, but important

Regarding the screen, beyond the surface offered, the big difference is obviously the mode always-on (which can be disabled). Let’s face it, once you’ve got a taste for it, it’s hard to do without it, as it seems natural to have a watch that tells the time and displays information all the time. The Series 8 therefore has an advantage on this point.
However, activation by discreetly tapping the screen or raising your wrist works perfectly, and you may not want to be distracted by your Watch as you are by your phone…

Then, when the screen is on, the two Watches offer almost identical peak and stable brightness. Thus, according to the measurements of 01Lab, the Series 8 displays a brightness of 637 cd / m2 on screen always-on, when the Watch SE displays 634 cd/m2 when its screen reduces its brightness a little before switching off. At peak, the Series 8 offered us 905 cd / m2, against 897 cd / m2 for the Watch SE. The difference is slight and imperceptible to the eye.

At a glance, apart from the screen size, screen on, the differences are not huge. – Pierre Thieulin – Thomas Remilleret

The same engine…

This year, all the Watch announced carry the same SiP S8, with the same processor – which seems to be identical to that carried in the Watch Series 7 and 6. So there will be no differences in power – we do not have any in any case not raised and the interface of the two watches is also fluid. When first run, apps don’t take more than a second or two to get up and running. They will then be available almost immediately when called back. At least for those that are used regularly.

Both Watches also embed the W3 chip, for managing wireless connections, especially with AirPods, which can be very practical for making calls or listening to music while running, for example, without getting bogged down. from an iPhone.

The Watch Series 8 also has the advantage of containing a U1 chip. In particular, this will allow you to use your Watch to unlock a hotel room or your home if you use connected locks. Uses by very widespread for the moment which can justify that you ignore the Series 8, on this point.

But not the same sensors…

The two Watches are also distinguished from each other by the sensors they carry, the Series 8 obviously having more. It thus benefits from the oximeter and the ECG (electrocardiogram), which are not present on the Watch SE. If they can be very important for a sharp monitoring of your health, we can however advance without too much risk to say that the vast majority of users – even Sunday sportsmen – do not have a vital need. Skip the novelty effect, we don’t often restart the ECG test and are interested in our blood oxygen level after a bit virulent covid, maybe…

For athletes, the Series 8 benefits from a new GPS. Not as efficient as that of the Watch Ultra, since it only uses a GPS frequency band, nevertheless this Watch is now compatible with the other global positioning systems: GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS and Beidou. The Watch SE should be a little less accurate at plotting your running routes. While its second-generation heart sensor, retained from the first Watch SE, will be a little less responsive to detect your changes in heart rate when you exercise, especially when you offer yourself a small split session.

Moreover, even if it offers the function of monitoring the menstrual cycle, the Watch SE does not integrate the temperature sensor. It allows in particular to calculate with more precision the periods of ovulation. If you are not interested in this function, you can therefore completely do without this sensor… and the Series 8.

The heart sensor is a must for two connected watches. – Pierre Thieulin – Thomas Remilleret

Equal for your safety

On the other hand, the two Watches are on par when it comes to offering fall detection and the new accident detection function. Remember that this function alerts the emergency services in the event of a car accident. It uses both GPS to detect rapid changes in speed and sudden decelerations. In addition, the barometer is used to detect a change in atmospheric pressure that occurs when an airbag is activated. The microphone, meanwhile, intervenes to measure any violent noise, such as the screeching of tires or broken glass. Finally, this function is based on a new gyroscope and a new accelerometer capable of withstanding 256 G. Why such a figure? Because a car accident at high speed subjects you to an acceleration of 200 G, but the accelerometer must hold up to serve as an alert. This should give pause to those who are sometimes reluctant to buckle up.

watchOS 9: fairness and essential functions

Both Apple watches are entitled to watchOS 9 and its new features. They should both be offered the same software follow-up for a few years, since they have an identical core technical platform.
With the new OS, come improved functions to track your workouts. They are present on both models. We have not yet noted any major differences in the measurements made by the two watches.

We will regret a single lack. The Watch SE does not have keyboard input. Last year, it would not have been very awkward since French was not yet supported. But this year, it is and, with a little patience, you can enter text messages on your connected watch using a small keyboard. It’s not a panacea, but it’s better than nothing. And often better than Siri…

Autonomy and charging, hand in hand?

One of the points where we expect significant improvements from the Watch is autonomy. For several years, Apple has announced an autonomy of 18 hours. An estimate that varies widely depending on use. By saving them, by not doing more than half an hour of sport per day, by reducing the notifications received and by not using the GPS or the telephone function too much, which would mobilize the 4G chip (on compatible models) , we managed to last up to just over 36 hours on previous generations.

With these two new generations, the situation is identical. However, we haven’t had time to subject them to more intensive use yet, we will see what they have to say on this point in our detailed tests.

But, at first glance, both Watches should behave the same way. We will just note one point that pleads in favor of the Series 8. It is compatible with fast charging which gives it 80% battery in 45 minutes of charging. Without being optimal, it is nevertheless a very good idea if you want to use the Watch to track your sleep. This allows you to either recharge it quickly before going to bed, or put it down when you wake up, time to shower and get ready. The SE will not have this facility. However, if the tracking of your nights does not interest you, the fast charge will be less strategic.

The main asset of the Watch Series 8 is its always-on screen – Pierre Thieulin – Thomas Remilleret

Ultimately, the Watch SE offers the essential and the most useful, with almost identical ergonomics. The only criticism we could make of it is its smaller and not always active screen. But for the rest, it seems to have everything it takes to be your children’s connected watch or even yours, if you are not keen on ECG or do not seek to determine your oxygen level in the blood or the accuracy of your menstrual cycle.

The Series 8 remains a more successful model, however, it does not fundamentally bring big differences, apart from the screen and the size – essential points, it is true. We would have liked to see her become more enduring, in particular. But to cross this course, Apple has planned another way, that of the Watch Ultra. So if you can’t afford the ultimate, why not settle for the basics? In these times of crisis, 200 euros saved is as much as you can invest in various sports equipment to keep you in shape… or in your electricity bill.

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